1952 Barndoor Deluxe – Where can you find the Holy Grail VW Bus?

No matter where on the planet you ask – the most wanted VW Bus will be a Barndoor Deluxe. But how many of the very early built Deluxes are left and where in the world are they located?

When it comes to old Volkswagen buses, the most popular of course are deluxe models with 23 windows. And also self-explaining, the older – the better! This text is dedicated to 1952 Barndoor Deluxe buses only. How many of these highly sought after, rare and expensive buses are still around? And where in the world are the remaining known exemplars?

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Let’s start with one thing this research about the “Holy Grail” of VW buses clearly showed. They are not only located in the heart of europe. They are distributed all over the world. From the United States, over Britain and Germany to even Japan. Here is a map where the known 1952 Barndoor Deluxe buses are located. (a few even more rare 1951 examples included).

Tap/click to enlarge and zoom!

How many of the very early “Sambas” are left?

The longer this research lasted, more and more of these unicorns showed up and made their way to this articles list. As in the beginning it seemed only about 15 exemplars of known ’52 Deluxes are left, later on the world wide number slowly raised. Untill there was a list of quite a few buses, which were either shown on pictures, or to be found elsewhere digital or analog. As a result, some buses were listed twice. Those were brought together by more research, which lowered the total number again. Obviously the “dark-figure” of left ones has to be higher. But at this point, it can only be written about known buses.

So, how many are left? The absolut figure of known 1952 Barndoor Deluxe buses at the moment is 36! And there are only 8 older known Deluxe buses with 23 windows and sunroof and one 15-window deluxe bus – built in the second half of 1951 and still around today. Makes a total of 45 of the oldest Deluxe buses still alive.

  • September 1952 Barndoor Deluxe
Remaining 1952 VW Deluxe Buses

How many were ever built?

There were 1.142 Deluxe bus units produced in the year 1952. (at least, that’s the number circulating. As a precaution against attemped fraud Volkswagen Archives don’t release any official numbers.) So only about 4 percent of this low production number are known to have survived till today. This can be a hint, either they were really all scrapped, or there are still more early Deluxe buses to be found.

For comparison, the rumored production-number for 1951 is less than 300 units and about 1.300 units in 1953. All in all – around 5.000 to 6.000 Barndoor Deluxes must have been produced from 1951 to 1955.

1952 8-Seater VW Deluxe Bus factory picture – Pic: Volkswagen AG

All their storys to be told: 1952 Deluxe (S)c(h)oolbus!

There are some very interesting storys on them. The one famous Deluxe, that once was owned by the collector Hornbecker, is still in mostly original paint and original interior today. Another one was once used as a school bus in Canada, another one was found in a shutdown barn in austria, with decades of dust on it. And another one was just so over-restored with false parts, you can’t even recognize it’s a real ’52. Each of them has a unique story. Some of them are going to be told more detailed on this website in near future. (stay tuned!)

The conditions of the remaining buses couldn’t be different. Most of them are getting restored at the moment. Some are in “project” condition for nearly their whole life. Only a handful of these early buses are running and driving.

Wherever located, – in a museum – a private collection – or elswhere in a barn, still to be found, the standing of these rare wanted buses won’t change. I bet you want one too? Don’t you?

How to identify a 1952 Deluxe Bus

  1. The a-pillar-mounted mirror points upwards (until end of 1952 only)
  2. Piano-hinge vent wing – at the front door windows (until end of 1952 only)
  3. Deep syklights (ended in early 1953)
  4. Chrome or black wiper arms and wipers (1951 Deluxe were all black, June ’52 still black)
  5. One-tone front bumper – Sealingwax Red (1951 Deluxe were painted two-toned, except the prototype)
How to identify a 1952 VW Deluxe Bus, Pic: Ian MacDowall

Make sure you come back to air-cool-ed.com to check out the updates and more detailed stories about these early Deluxe buses soon.

This is a developing Article! “New” Buses are getting added to list.

If you want to know more details about these buses mentioned on the list, you can contact me, because further information is private data, that wasn’t shared here in the article.

Special thanks for help and knowledge to:
Alex, Martin, Florian, Andreas and Ian.

4 Comments Add yours

  1. VW Girl says:

    Awesome Story!
    Looking forward to more 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  2. AustroSplit says:

    Very good written! Worth a read for everyone who calls himself a VW Bus fan. Can’t wait for more interesting stories to follow. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

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